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Scott Steinschneider and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

Tropical moisture exports (TMEs) may play an important role in extreme precipitation. An analysis of the spatiotemporal structure of precipitation associated with TMEs for the eastern United States at seasonal and daily time scales is presented. TME-based precipitation is characterized based on the change in specific humidity along TME tracks delineated in a Lagrangian analysis of the ERA-Interim dataset. The empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of seasonal TME-based precipitation are analyzed separately for each season to identify the dominant modes of interannual variability. Loading patterns for the first EOF show a distinct seasonal cycle in the core region of TME-based precipitation across the eastern United States, while the second EOF describes a northwest–southeast oscillation in the center of TME-induced precipitation occurrence. The EOFs for TMEs are compared against EOFs of gauged flood count data, which exhibit similar spatial structures. Correlations between TME EOFs, geopotential heights, and sea surface temperatures suggest a strong connection between TME-based precipitation, the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern, Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), and the Intra-Americas Sea patterns for much of the calendar year. Daily TME-based and total precipitation is projected onto the leading seasonal EOFs to examine the characteristics of upper-quantile daily events. The daily analysis suggests that the PNA can potentially provide information regarding heavy TME-based precipitation at a lead time of 1–10 days or more in most seasons and total precipitation in the winter. The potential for subseasonal, seasonal, and decadal forecasts or conditional simulations of precipitation in the study region is discussed.

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Scott Steinschneider and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

This study examines the spatiotemporal variability of two sets of daily precipitation from ERA-Interim across the eastern United States between 1979 and 2013: 1) total precipitation and 2) precipitation originating from tropical moisture exports (TMEs), which have been linked to extremes of midlatitude precipitation. Archetypal analysis (AA) is introduced as a new method to decompose and characterize structures within the spatiotemporal climate data. AA is uniquely suited to identify extremal patterns and is a complementary method to empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis. The authors provide a brief comparison between AA and EOF analysis and then examine the spatiotemporal variability, circulation anomalies, and sea surface temperature teleconnections associated with the archetypes of the two precipitation variables. Markovian structure, seasonal variability, and interannual trends in archetype occurrence are explored using nonparametric generalized linear models (GLMs). Results show that the modes of precipitation variability and their associated teleconnections are very similar between total and TME precipitation, suggesting that TMEs can help explain prevailing modes of total precipitation variability. Both total and TME precipitation shift longitudinally conditional on the phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic, and they are inhibited during strong, negative PDO and positive Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) regimes. The GLM analysis reveals distinct seasonal cycles and decadal trends in archetypes likely associated with the strength and position of the North Atlantic subtropical high (NASH). The study concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the analysis and other promising applications of AA.

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Arthur M. Greene, Lisa Goddard, and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

Regional temperature change projections for the twenty-first century are generated using a multimodel ensemble of atmosphere–ocean general circulation models. The models are assigned coefficients jointly, using a Bayesian linear model fitted to regional observations and simulations of the climate of the twentieth century. Probability models with varying degrees of complexity are explored, and a selection is made based on Bayesian deviance statistics, coefficient properties, and a classical cross-validation measure utilizing temporally averaged data. The model selected is shown to be superior in predictive skill to a naïve model consisting of the unweighted mean of the underlying atmosphere–ocean GCM (AOGCM) simulations, although the skill differential varies regionally. Temperature projections for the A2 and B1 scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios are presented.

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Balaji Rajagopalan, Michael E. Mann, and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

Guided by the increasing awareness and detectability of spatiotemporally organized climatic variability at interannual and longer timescales, the authors motivate the paradigm of a climate system that exhibits excitations of quasi-oscillatory eigenmodes with characteristic timescales and large-scale spatial patterns of coherence. It is assumed that any such modes are superposed on a spatially and temporally autocorrelated stochastic noise background. Under such a paradigm, a previously described (Mann and Park) multivariate frequency-domain approach is promoted as a particularly effective means of spatiotemporal signal identification and reconstruction, and an associated forecasting methodology is introduced. This combined signal detection/forecasting scheme exhibits significantly greater skill than conventional forecasting approaches in the context of a synthetic example consistent with the adopted paradigm. The example application demonstrates statistically significant skill at 5–10-yr lead times. Applications to operational long-range climatic forecasting are motivated and discussed.

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Balaji Rajagopalan, Upmanu Lall, and Mark A. Cane

Abstract

There has been an apparent increase in the frequency and duration of El Niño–Southern Oscillation events in the last two decades relative to the prior period of record. Furthermore, 1990–95 was the longest period of sustained high Darwin sea level pressure in the instrumental record. Variations in the frequency and duration of such events are of considerable interest because of their implications for understanding global climatic variability and also the possibility that the climate system may be changing due to external factors such as the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Nonparametric statistical methods for time series analysis are applied to a 1882 to 1995 seasonal Darwin sea level pressure (DSLP) anomaly time series to explore the variations in El Niño–like anomaly occurrence and persistence over the period of record. Return periods for the duration of the 1990–95 event are estimated to be considerably smaller than those recently obtained by using a linear ARMA model with the same time series. The likelihood of a positive anomaly of the DSLP, as well as its persistence, is found to exhibit decadal- to centennial-scale variability and was nearly as high at the end of the last century as it has been recently. The 1990–95 event has a much lower return period if the analysis is based on the 1882–1921 DSLP data. The authors suggest that conclusions that the 1990–95 event may be an effect of greenhouse gas–induced warming be tempered by a recognition of the natural variability in the system.

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A. Sankarasubramanian, Upmanu Lall, and Susan Espinueva

Abstract

Seasonal streamflow forecasts contingent on climate information are essential for water resources planning and management as well as for setting up contingency measures during extreme years. In this study, operational streamflow forecasts are developed for a reservoir system in the Philippines using ECHAM4.5 precipitation forecasts (EPF) obtained using persisted sea surface temperature (SST) scenarios. Diagnostic analyses on SST conditions show that the tropical SSTs influence the streamflow during extreme years, whereas the local SSTs (0°–25°N, 115°–130°E) account for streamflow variability during normal years. Given that the EPF, local, and tropical SST conditions are spatially correlated, principal components regression (PCR) is employed to downscale the GCM-predicted precipitation fields and SST anomalies to monthly streamflow forecasts and to update them every month within the season using the updated EPF and SST conditions. These updated forecasts improve the prediction of monthly streamflows within the season in comparison to the skill of the monthly streamflow forecasts issued at the beginning of the season. It is also shown that the streamflow forecasting model developed using EPF under persisted SST conditions performs well upon employing EPF obtained under predicted SSTs as predictor. This has potential implications in the development of operational streamflow forecasts and statistical downscaling, which requires adequate years of retrospective GCM forecasts for recalibration. Finally, the study also shows that predicting the seasonal streamflow using the monthly precipitation forecasts reproduces the observed seasonal total better than the conventional approach of using seasonal precipitation forecasts to predict the seasonal streamflow.

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Michelle Ho, Upmanu Lall, and Edward R. Cook

Abstract

Evolving patterns of droughts and wet spells in the conterminous United States (CONUS) are examined over 555 years using a tree-ring-based paleoclimate reconstruction of the modified Palmer drought severity index (PDSI). A hidden Markov model is used as an unsupervised method of classifying climate states and quantifying the temporal evolution from one state to another. Modeling temporal variability in spatial patterns of drought and wet spells provides the ability to objectively assess and simulate historical persistence and recurrence of similar patterns. The Viterbi algorithm reveals the probable sequence of states through time, enabling an examination of temporal and spatial features and associated large-scale climate forcing. Distinct patterns of sea surface temperature that are known to enhance or inhibit rainfall are associated with some states. Using the current CONUS PDSI field the model can be used to simulate the space–time PDSI pattern over the next few years, or unconditional simulations can be used to derive estimates of spatially concurrent PDSI patterns and their persistence and intensity across the CONUS.

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Christina Karamperidou, Francesco Cioffi, and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

Zonal and meridional surface temperature gradients are considered to be determinants of large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. However, there has been limited investigation of these gradients as diagnostic aids. Here, the twentieth-century variability in the Northern Hemisphere equator-to-pole temperature gradient (EPG) and the ocean–land temperature contrast (OLC) is explored. A secular trend in decreasing EPG and OLC is noted. Decadal and interannual (ENSO-related) variations in the joint distribution of EPG and OLC are identified, hinting at multistable climate states that may be indigenous to the climate or due to changing boundary forcings. The NH circulation patterns for cases in the tails of the joint distribution of EPG and OLC are also seen to be different. Given this context, this paper extends past efforts to develop insights into jet stream dynamics using the Lorenz-1984 model, which is forced directly and only by EPG and OLC. The joint probability distribution of jet stream and eddy energy, conditional on EPG and OLC scenarios, is investigated. The scenarios correspond to (i) warmer versus colder climate conditions and (ii) polarized ENSO phases. The latter scenario involves the use of a heuristic ENSO model to drive the Lorenz-1984 model via a modulation of the EPG or the OLC. As with GCMs, the low-order model reveals that the response to El Niño forcing is not similar to an anthropogenic warming signature. The potential uses of EPG and OLC as macro-level indicators of climate change and variability and for comparing results across GCMs and observations are indicated.

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Balaji Rajagopalan, Upmanu Lall, and Stephen E. Zebiak

Abstract

A Bayesian methodology is used to assess the information content of categorical, probabilistic forecasts of specific variables derived from a general circulation model (GCM) forecast ensemble, and to combine a “prior” forecast (climatological probabilities of each category) with a categorical probabilistic forecast derived from a GCM ensemble to develop posterior, or “regularized” categorical probabilities. The combination algorithm assigns a weight to a particular model forecast and to climatology. The ratio of the sample likelihood of the model based on the posterior categorical probabilities, to that based on climatological probabilities, computed over the period of record of historical forecasts, provides a measure of the skill or information content of a candidate model. The weight given to a GCM forecast serves as a secondary indicator of its information content. Model weights are determined by maximizing the likelihood ratio. Results using the so-called ranked probability skill score as an objective function are also obtained, and are found to be very similar to the likelihood-based results.

The procedure is extended to the optimal combination of forecasts from multiple GCMs. An application of the method is presented for global, seasonal precipitation and temperature forecasts in two different seasons, based on 41 yr of observational and model simulation data. The multimodel combination skill is significantly better than climatology skill in only a few regions of the globe, but is generally an improvement over individual models, and over a simple average of forecasts from different models. Limitations and possible improvements of the methodology are discussed.

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Shida Gao, Pan Liu, and Upmanu Lall

Abstract

Integrated atmospheric water vapor transport (IVT) is a determinant of global precipitation. In this paper, using the CERA-20C climate reanalysis dataset, we explore three questions in Northern Hemisphere precipitation for four seasons: 1) What is the covariability between the leading spatiotemporal modes of seasonal sea surface temperature (SST), the seasonal IVT, and the seasonal precipitation for the Northern Hemisphere? 2) How well can the leading spatial modes of seasonal precipitation be reconstructed from the leading modes of IVT and SST for the same season? 3) How well can the leading modes of precipitation for the next season be predicted from the leading modes of the current season’s SST and IVT? Wavelet analyses identify covariation in the leading modes of seasonal precipitation and those of IVT and SST in the 2–8-yr band, with the highest amplitude in the March–May (MAM) season, and provide a firm physical explanation for the potential predictability. We find that a subset of the 10 leading principal components of the seasonal IVT and SST fields has significant trends in connections with seasonal precipitation modes, and provides an accurate statistical concurrent reconstruction and one-season-ahead forecast of the leading seasonal precipitation modes, thus providing a pathway to improving the understanding and prediction of precipitation extremes in the context of climate change attribution, seasonal and longer prediction, and climate change scenarios. The same-season reconstruction model can explain 76% of the variance, and the next-season forecast model can explain 58% variance of hemispheric precipitation on average.

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